#ThrowbackThursday: Understanding International Women’s Day

This post was originally published in March of 2018 under the title, “Before You Give it a Like: Understanding International Women’s Day,” and has been updated for International Women’s Day in March 2019.

“Happy International Women’s Day!”

Tomorrow, your feed will be filled with celebratory posts acknowledging the women in our lives who are diligent and passionate, and accompanied by the hashtag #BalanceisBetter. And if you’re like me, you might think, “Woot! Women are such a blessing, balance is a good thing, and I know so many strong, intelligent and hard-working women worthy of celebration!” After all, I’m sure you can think of at least one woman in your life whose dedication, love, and energy for nurturing those around her has had a positive impact on you. And those women are definitely worth celebrating.

But before you hit the like button or even share a post of your own, it’s good to consider what International Women’s Day is actually about:

  • The first official International Women’s Day in the US, dating back to 1910, was an initiative of the Socialist Party of America.
  • It quickly gained attention around the world and became a global celebration in future years. It was instituted as a global holiday by the United Nations in 1975.
  • Feminism is the foundational philosophy that the modern Women’s Day and accompanying movements are rooted in.
  • The main “oppression” that women claim to be standing up to resist in the U.S. include the “pay gap” and what they perceive to be a system of “patriarchy.”
  • Just a few examples of modern women who represent the belief system of this movement are Gloria Steinem (feminist movement leader), Cecile Richards (director of Planned Parenthood), Elizabeth Warren (democratic senator), and Lena Dunham (actress).
  • Today this movement is rooted in a belief system that rejects the principle of women prioritizing the home and equates equality, not just with equality of opportunity, but with equality of outcome, believing that women will not be truly equal with men until they are represented in every sphere of work in comparable numbers. This is exemplified by the 2016’s theme, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality,” and 2017’s theme, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.”

On its surface, the intention for International Women’s Day is a celebration of women around the globe and their achievements. However, IWD affirms that their purpose is to, “accelerate gender parity,” not simply the equal treatment and intrinsic value of men and women, but also the equal representation of women in every status and sphere of influence. The general language used to describe the purpose of this day is a guise for beliefs aligned with intersectional feminism and against biblical gender distinctions.

The oversimplified language that http://www.internationalwomensday.com (IWD) shares utilizes the propaganda technique of transfer or association. Transfer takes the positive or negative qualities of one person, idea or entity and projects them onto another to either qualify or discredit the second person, idea or entity. By making general statements about celebrating women’s achievements, IWD projects a positive association to those who support their cause. However, it leaves little to no room for disagreement on particular issues.

This presents a problem: if I don’t agree with a woman’s achievement that IWD celebrates, for example, Liliane Ploumen’s recognition for her international work in advocating for women’s right to abortion, do I then disqualify myself from celebrating International Women’s Day? Furthermore, by celebrating this day, am I inherently showing support for issues that I would not only disagree with but also would have clear biblical reasons to reject and oppose?

I believe the short answer is yes. Because of this logical fallacy of transfer, according to feminist ideology, if you support IWD, you love women. But if you don’t agree with everything about IWD, you hate women, or at the very least you’re taking things WAY too seriously. Even as you’ve read this article and considered your position, you might have thought, “it doesn’t make sense to throw the baby out with the bath water. I support women all around the globe, their health, security, and opportunities, and love the idea of celebrating the equal value of women, so what’s the big deal?” And this is the challenge of thinking critically about these issues, considering the ramifications of what you support, like or share.

As Christian women, we should be careful. With all the information available to us through the internet and social media, we should be cautious when liking or sharing about outspoken organizations or public achievements that simply seem positive or encouraging. We should think intentionally about how our support of these organizations aligns with biblical truth. With the ideologies behind IWD, we see that women are encouraged to deny biblical gender roles, as those are seen as oppressive and demeaning. Yet, the Bible teaches of God’s divine calling for all women, a design given by God to women for their greatest joy, peace, and accomplishment to be found in Him. In the church today, there is still much confusion about the role of women in the home and in ministry, and much of this is due to the influence of worldly, and not biblical, thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, we should absolutely value and rejoice in the way God has created women. Looking in scripture, we see that women are greatly esteemed and loved by God and His people. God formed Eve from Adam’s rib, providing a helper for Adam who would bless and partner with him in all God had called him to; with woman being the pinnacle of His creation, God literally saved the best of His work for last (cue here Frozone’s wife from The Incredibles, “I’m the greatest good you are ever gonna get.”). King Lemuel’s mother adjures him to treasure a woman of excellence, who is hard-working, intelligent, accomplished, and fears the Lord. Paul thanks God for and reminds Timothy of the sincere faith of his mother and grandmother, a faith and understanding of God that was diligently taught to Timothy. Jesus Christ did not ignore the many women He came across during His earthly ministry, but instead showed abundant grace to them though they were sinners. And we see that Christ, after resurrecting from the grave, appeared first to women.

So how do we reconcile our thinking? How should we approach days like IWD or the Women’s March? Should we criticize the women who advocate for these movements, some who might sit next to us in our pews on Sunday morning? Not at all! We do not condemn our fellow Christians who speak out on occasions like today, and even acknowledge that the majority do so while lacking information about the history and philosophies behind them.  Even so, we need to take personal responsibility for our own beliefs, and obey the call to action given to us in Titus 2: 1-10, to teach what accords with sound doctrine, so that the Word of God may not be reviled!

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

God invites us to learn sound doctrine, His will and His purposes for all of man and womankind, through His word. The word of God is sufficient for all things, for instruction and learning of any kind, including what God has called us to as women, and men, while here on earth (2 Timothy 3:16).

This post is not to shame you into going back through all your likes on Instagram, nor is it to force you to become a fierce opposer of women’s day. What I really want is for you (us) to think about and search the scriptures to know who God made you, as a woman, to be. I want you to pray for wisdom and discernment that aligns with God’s word so that the word of God would not be attacked or diminished, but instead gloriously upheld in your life to His glory. And I want you to engage your energies and passions in the things of Christ because in Him you are meant to find satisfaction and purpose. Remember sister, that in Christ, there is grace to be found for all, in all things – even our thinking and understanding, culture and upbringing!

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Biblical Obedience Isn’t Legalism, It’s Life

Come and Be Free
Imagine a scenario with me for a moment where you are imprisoned in an old dungeon, wrists and ankles in chains. You have been there a long time, your whole life in fact, because you had been born into this captivity. Because of this, you have no idea that darkness and pain and starvation are not normal or how everyone in the world lives. But then one day, a man comes and releases your chains, proclaiming excitedly that you are now free! He tells you of a glorious King who sacrificed his own life to rescue you as well as the other prisoners who had been jailed with you and invites you to walk with him out of the prison and experience life, light, and liberty. You quickly take his hand and go running from the place of your chains, full of anticipation and hope. However, as you go out, your joy is replaced with shock as your eyes burn from the sunlight you’ve never beheld, your chest aches as it inhales fresh air for the first time, your body shivers as it feels a breeze brush against it, and while you know intuitively that there is beauty and goodness waiting to meet you, the discomfort and trauma that is assaulting your body feels like it is all too much. Suddenly you pull your hand from your rescuer and go running back into the dungeon. You pick up those old chains that chafed your skin for years, and you begin to stroke them affectionately. The darkness feels comforting after the stinging sunlight, and you’ve been hungry and malnourished for so long that you are past feeling hunger pains anyway. You see other prisoners running back in to join you, and rather than reminding one another of the insanity that loving darkness, chains, and bondage is, you all encourage one another, “The King was so nice to die for us, and certainly we should not forget his great sacrifice! But I don’t think he realized how painful it would be for us to leave our home, afterall we have lived here forever! Those soldiers bidding us to leave this place are being so narrow-minded to think that true freedom and joy only exists on the other side of these walls. When we entered that bright light it felt as if we might die, and certainly the King does not want us to experience such agony. Because of what He did, we are now free to walk about our dungeons, and even visit our friends’ in theirs, such grace! And this way we can still be near those chains that have been with us through so much. We wouldn’t even know how to sleep without them! Yes, this King was good indeed to give us such freedom, and we are truly a most blessed people!”

When you hear this story in narrative form, the lunacy of the freed prisoners is immediately apparent. No prisoner in their right mind would choose to remain in those conditions. And certainly if one tried to run back to their chains there would be a hundred people telling them to stop acting crazy and get out of there. And yet, this picture is a fitting description of what so many believers in the American church are experiencing, both personally and corporately, as a Christian culture has sprung that nurtures sin under the guise of grace and writes off serious obedience to the Bible in the name of avoiding legalism. Borrowing some of the apostle Paul’s analogies, they have been left to look and act like natural people when they have been made spiritual in Christ, drinking milk when there is meat on the table, infants in the faith when they should be adults. So many Christians are walking around disoriented by the lack of fruitfulness manifested in their lives, or worse, comfortable in their worldly look-alike lives, unaware that there is so much more to be had if they would only come under the teachings of Scripture. Sin is the chains of our old captivity, the evidence of our previous enslavement, and it is false to view the call to obey the God-breathed Word as harsh, legalistic, or burdensome. Scripture is replete with verses equating our new life in Christ and a love for God to obedience, and when you understand the terrible nature of sin you are able to see that obedience is actually a call to life, light, and liberty. Yes, it is often painful, and in fact comes through a union to Christ’s death as your old self is crucified (Romans 6:6-7). But on the other side of our daily opportunities to die to ourselves is resurrection life, full of real grace, goodness, and glory.

Is Legalism Really Our Issue?
To understand what is wrong with so many in the modern church’s approach to sin and obedience, we have to begin with clarifying what legalism actually is and the sin of self-righteousness that is behind it. Legalism is adding on to God’s Laws or an attitude of self-righteousness because you think you’re really good at following them (plus all the extra rules the Legalist is prone to tack-on). So if you are really proud of how good you think you are at being godly, or if you think you can paint a picture of holiness above or beyond that which God has laid out in His Word, then that is certainly sin in need of serious repentance. Using the illustration from above, it would be like a person getting out of the prison only to put all their chains in a backpack to carry around and fasting four days a week because it brings back precious memories of starving in the dark, dank prison they were supposed to have left. As Paul says, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh,” (Colossians 2:23). However, though our flesh may legalistically desire to boast in what it has accomplished, I think it is fair to say in our current cultural context, self-denial and severity are not what sell. Rather, pride often takes a more devious path in our hearts.

The Humble Brag of a Non-Pharisee
Today, I would suggest that the form of self-righteousness most rampant in church culture is not the kind where people are trying so hard to not disobey God that they wrongly add additional standards to His perfect statutes. Rather, it is the kind where people make a lackadaisical approach to sin their boast, believing themselves to be superior to the stingy rule-followers that, according to them, give following Jesus a bad name. Imagine the tax collector overhearing the Pharisee’s boast in Luke 18, full of its evident pride, and responding in kind with a “Thank you, God, that I’m not like this arrogant Pharisee over here.” Certainly boasting in one’s attempts at obeying the commandments are evil and heartily condemned by Scripture, but what is equally condemned is a lack of love for the Law of God and an unwillingness to submit to it. As James 1:22-25 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Those who make a feelings-driven, non-confrontational version of Christianity their boast are experiencing the same sinful pride as the Legalist, just with a bit of a backdoor approach. Sadly, this philosophy is leaving people to live in their dungeons while congratulating themselves for not being chained to the wall. Messages of cheap grace are a gross misunderstanding of the Lord’s purposes in calling us to lives of repentance and holiness, and they spring from a lack of comprehending the beauty of Christian obedience.

Defining Biblical Obedience
Biblical obedience is defined for us in Scripture in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.“ and 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” Because we have experienced the love of God in the gospel, we are led to trust what He has outlined as good and avoid what He has called evil in His Word. This obedience is born of our love for Him and a passion for His glory, knowing He laid down His life, “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised,” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Coming out of the dungeon that was slavery to sin admittedly feels like dying a lot of the time because we are still in the flesh, still in that body that was born in darkness. Ephesians 5:8b-10 tells us, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Like eyes adjusting from a dark dungeon to the light of the real world, it will certainly be a shock to our system to open our eyes, but akin to the kind that will lead to visions of mountains and rivers and flowers and the ocean. Putting off anything that reminisces of our old dungeon lives and walking in the Light of our Lord will lead to glorious experiences of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness that are the fruit of a Spirit-led life. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit,” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). This is the magnificent hope of the sanctification offered to us in the power of Christ through the Spirit – freedom and unveiled glory!

Go and Bear Glorious Fruit
In the famous Vine and Branches parable, our Savior said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full,” (John 15:8-11). The call to obedience is the call to glorify God and to abide in the love Christ has for you, so that you may experience bountiful joy. How could we ever find that burdensome or restrictive? We should not be content with more dungeon space when there is a whole world of gospel glory awaiting us on the other side of obedience. Consider the sin of anger. Is it really “freeing” to be getting sinfully mad at your kids, spouse, the person who cut you off, the insurance agent on the phone, etc. on a daily basis and not feeling like you have to deal with it because of some nice Instagram post you saw about how you’re “enough” and “grace”? Because that is what I see being marketed to women everywhere. In the place of truth and calls to walk in the glorious freedom of obedience there are empty comforts and passing over of sins that God does not give us to permission to overlook. What if instead we were exhorting women with the truth of Scripture to be so secure in the love of God, so desirous of His glory over their own, that they might be liberated to respond to life’s most difficult people or trying circumstances with a peace that surpasses understanding, unconditional grace to give in light of the unlimited grace they have been given, and unshakeable joy that is built upon their trust in God alone?  This is the reflective glory that our King not only died for, but rose again in glorious victory over death and sin: that we might become holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He purchased our eternally secure position as His children, making us slaves to righteousness and freeing us to live out our blood-bought identities more and more as free women in Him as long as we are on this earth, until He brings our sanctification to a perfect completion (Philippians 1:6). Rather than being discouraged by the fact that we have to battle our sinful flesh or coping with it by diminishing our beliefs about the seriousness of sin and our response to it, we can resist growing weary in doing good knowing that through our perseverance we will be blessed (Galatians 6:9, James 1:22-25).

Abortion is Wrong…but What About…?

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

 

“I would never get an abortion myself because I couldn’t do it. But I can’t judge what another woman decides to do.”

As I listened to a brief YouTube interview that a celebrity political conservative had with a UCLA student, I remembered myself in college, touting a similar message. When I was younger, I agreed with the woman in the video that I wouldn’t want to have an abortion. In my logic, abortion was ending the life of a child in its mother’s womb, since I believed that the fetus was a viable human life. But I wasn’t ready to account for abortion as murder and felt scared to make the judgment call on another woman’s case, especially since I didn’t know her circumstances. I felt like I did not have enough information, whether medically, scientifically, or socially to make that call.

Maybe you feel like this reasoning reflects your thinking, or maybe you have taken the time to develop a politically or scientifically-informed philosophy on the issue. I have appreciated listening to pro-life arguments, such as those provided by LiveAction, PragerU, and Living Waters, that have helped me to consider perspectives from both the political and medical views. However, for the Christian, the abortion debate needs to go beyond purely scientific or political realms. Our argument regarding the terror of abortion must be informed by theological truths – that is, our understanding of who God is and of His creation, as we see in Scripture. Over the years, as I’ve learned more about the value and sanctity of life, as well as grown in my understanding of the condition of the human heart, I see that Scripture is clear about abortion: it is an act of murder, the taking of innocent and voiceless life.

But why can someone say this with such firm conviction? How do we discuss with others the realities of our society, the reasons women give for being pro-choice, the incidences of rape and incest, and even the situations where a mother’s pregnancy has put her life at risk? I believe one of the main reasons we have found ourselves confused or unsure when we encounter these questions is because we have allowed our thinking of self-love and preservation to be exalted above the will and ways of God. In a culture where commercials, memes, jokes, and even cute artwork to place on your desk encourages the messages to think of yourself, pursue what you want, care for yourself, and put yourself first, or you can’t help anyone else, we have come to bow down at the shrine of self-centeredness. Even as women who profess to worship the Creator, we can subconsciously allow those little lies of worshiping self above God to enter in. This posture puts us in a weak position to fight the lies of the world, and we see an example of it with the confused opinions many in the American church have on abortion. Many women feel unprepared to respond to what some might call gray-area scenarios involving unprepared teen mothers, babies who are diagnosed with a genetic disease in the womb, and impregnation by rape. When we think about these situations, we feel unsure because the life of the woman has been sold to us as a higher priority than the life of the child. Yet, Scripture informs our thinking about these scenarios, no matter how dire they are, and it is best to have a foundational understanding of God’s creation and sovereignty over it in order to address these questions and other questions biblically, gracefully, and consistently.

God as Creator

Scripture narrates that we were created by our Creator and that each life He creates has been fashioned intimately and purposefully in His hands. Psalm 139:13 tells of God’s direct care over making each person, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb,” and continues on in verse 15 with, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret…”.

In Job 31:13-15, when Job was discussing his servants, who in society would have been considered lesser-persons, “If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant when they brought a complaint against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When He makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not He who made me in the womb make him? And did not One fashion us in the womb?” The manservant is created by God just as his master Job is, and so Job recognizes that both he and his workers share the same value.

Both passages explain that God fashions, knits, and creates each human life with intrinsic value, which is not dependent on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gestational age, or life circumstances. Furthermore, they affirm what we are taught in Genesis 3, with the creation of the first man and woman. Both Adam and Eve were made in God’s image, the only creatures of creation to be given such a fashioning, and are subject to God.

From Scripture, we can conclude that every pregnancy is a life that is formed intentionally and intimately by God and that he or she is a person who is made in His image, who is known even before biological conception. Therefore, even from the first trimester, though this little life in the womb might not yet exhibit personality traits, he or she has personhood. Though he or she cannot contribute to the family or society in the womb, this person still has immeasurable value. And even though we may know nothing of a child during gestation, this little person is of the same made-in-God’s-image worth as a fully grown adult.

God is Sovereign

God is the Author of life, and therefore He rules over it. As Psalm 139 continues in verse 16, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” The Lord ordains and knows of all that has and will happen in our days, even before we are conceived. His plan for His kingdom here on earth and in heaven includes all of mankind and will work in the best interest of the believer.  We cannot have a proper view of God and His care for us in our circumstances without the doctrine of divine sovereignty. As is taught by the Institute of Biblical Counseling and Discipleship, “[Sovereignty] provides hope that [God’s] in charge and you are not a victim of circumstance. When we talk about abuse, it can be a challenging doctrine to grapple with… ultimately God is in charge of whatever happens to you even if you don’t like it. And it’s not yours to be angry with God, but to trust Him in His sovereignty to ultimately work all things together for good even though right now it doesn’t seem so good.” Scripture supports this definition of sovereignty, as we see that the Lord governs both the good and the calamity that His people and the world experience (Job 2:10, Ecclesiastes 7:14), and works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).

Considering pregnancy in view of God’s sovereignty, we can see that in all circumstances, God is in full control of what takes place. There is no instance in which God is not aware of a woman or child’s situation, experience, pain, health, difficulty, trial, need, or fear. And though sin has marred even our physical beings, God is glorified as His works are displayed through children with physical or cognitive disabilities.  Furthermore, it is He who closes and opens the mother’s womb, and He who provides for and sustains the life of every living thing (1 Samuel 1, Matthew 6:32, Job 12:10).

What Does This Mean?

How do these truths inform, or even change our philosophies about abortion? Just like Mary in Luke 1 who understood she was a servant of the Lord, Christian women must know that the greatest joy and freedom is not to live for themselves, but to live in obedience to God and to honor His ways.  If we understand that God is sovereign over all pregnancies, then we can have confidence that He sees the suffering of the woman who was brutally raped, the fear of the family who cannot conceive how they can afford another child, the need of the young teenager who hasn’t even finished high school, the concern of the middle-aged mother who is told her child tested positive for a genetic disorder, the angst of the twenty-something-year-old working wife who wasn’t planning on having a family just yet, and the anguish of a woman who is battling cancer and is told she should have an abortion immediately in order to prevent delaying her treatment.  

Yet in each of those cases, and all others, God also sees each child in the womb. He knows each baby by name, and carefully fashions them for His glory and purposes. Though they are being nurtured and developed within her body, the baby is a separate being and body, a creation of the same supreme and full value of his or her mother. What every carrying mother needs is not simply the hope that it will all turn out alright or even the confidence that a person will provide exactly what she thinks she needs. She also does not need to be told the lie that her child is not a human yet, to falsely believe that aborting this child will restore her freedom, or to be convinced that preserving the child’s life will steal her joy. The life of any woman will include suffering, and our aim in counseling one another in the church and outside of it should not be to look to unbiblical solutions as we look ahead at potential or imminent difficulties, but rather point her to the One source of confident hope.

What these women and mothers need is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the true hope that the One who died for them because He loves them has already paid for their greatest need, and will never forsake them. He can be trusted and will address every earthly need according to His will, and not abandon them in their dire situations. God sees their anguish, just as He saw Hagar’s in Genesis 21, and the little life developing inside of them is a gift from God, not an unfortunate accident nor a mere consequence of circumstance. God will show His power through their suffering, and provide grace for their trial. And though the ending may not be as planned, He can be trusted that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The church can serve as the hands and feet of Christ to bring the gospel of peace to women who are considering abortions, or even struggling to worship God in the midst of their pregnancy. Let us seek God in prayer, asking Him to lead us to serve the women who are immediately around us and share of the hope we have in our Savior and the truth that they need to hear in their circumstance. Even if we don’t live near a pregnancy crisis center, there are people in all of our lives who are hard of heart, and whose thinking has given way to selfish living and pride against the ways of God. We are called to share the gospel with them, teach them of the Creator and His love for each life. We can consider how we might use our time and home to care for those women who might be in need, donate to a crisis pregnancy center near us, learn the implications of “reproductive health” legislation and exercise our right to vote, examine our own hearts towards children and their value, and above all, pray for the for many to be convicted and repentant. As we trust our Creator God and sovereign Lord we will be well equipped to point women considering abortion to do the same!

Women Pastors Have an Authority Issue

SHOCKED, BUT NOT REALLY
In the past month, I have noticed a troubling increase of women pastors infiltrating theological circles that, even a year or two ago, would’ve shocked me (insomuch as anything shocks me these days, which is to say not as much as I wish they did). Speakers and authors whose ministries I have enjoyed for years have recently come out in support of women entering pastoral ministry, have invited women pastors to speak on their podcasts, shared stories on their Instagram accounts of women pastors being confirmed for the first time in their churches, and so on. Five years ago, if I had read of a woman pastor, I would’ve assumed that she was part of a seeker-friendly, watered-down church at best, and even more likely, a part of a heretical church that taught a false gospel. However, the speakers and authors I am referring to do not come from these circles. They come from churches with extensive doctrinal statements that still hold to a biblical view of inerrancy, salvation, and even theological issues such as sovereignty, total depravity, and other typically more “conservative” issues. Two years ago these positions would’ve automatically implied that they also held to a traditional view of men and women’s roles and the specifics of how those flesh out in the context of a church body. But alas, those days appear to be fleeting. So, here I am, writing a “controversial” piece that only reiterates what has been said for the past 2,000 years, even though it should not actually be controversial at all to anyone who claims to submit to the authority of Scripture.

AUTHORITY ISSUES
But, of course, women have been having authority issues since Genesis 3 (did I just go there? Yes, yes I did!). From the outset I want to be clear: this IS an authority issue. I am not denying that there are people who have not studied this topic, and therefore, would fall into what Proverbs calls the “naive” category. Out of love for our fellow Christians who have not worked through it, it is so important that we be having gracious conversations on the topic as we seek to reflect our God well together to a watching world. I have spent some time researching “the other side”, trying to understand the thought-process, biblical exegesis, and defenses that are used, and have reached one conclusion: this is not really an issue of differing opinions of how to interpret difficult passages of Scripture, nor is it an understandable misunderstanding of what Scripture has laid out as the roles of men and women. The bottom line is that you can come to Scripture seeking to defend your presuppositions or you can come with the desire for your presuppositions to be shaped by it, no matter how counter-cultural or offensive it may feel. Theological camps who are allowing women to enter the pastorate are simply going along with the first option. So, for the purpose of this piece, I will be reviewing God’s authority, the fact that we are all under it, and then call it a day. Because as Al Mohler shared about his own experience of having his mind changed regarding women becoming pastors, “Going to the Scriptures [on this issue], it doesn’t take long. It wasn’t like I embarked on a lifelong study to discover what Scripture says about this. It didn’t take long at all.”

GOD IS THE AUTHORITY
You did not create yourself. I know you know that. If you are reading this on our blog it is 99% likely that you already believe in God, that He made you, and that He has made a permanent claim on your life through His Son’s redemptive work on your behalf at Calvary. The problem is, in our postmodern, existential society, we can have sneaky presumptions infiltrate our worldview at times without knowing it. And one slug is enough to ruin the whole salad, if you know what I mean. A foundational problem to the conversations in Christian circles regarding what it means for men and women to be equal has been that many evangelicals borrow the world’s definition of equality. Because men and women are both intellectually capable of publicly proclaiming truth from God’s Word and encouraging others in the faith, they believe that women must be given space to exercise these kinds of gifts in the exact same capacities and spheres as men, and if not, they are being treated as lesser than their Christian brothers. But we are not to submit to the world’s definitions, and what is more relevant is whether or not Scripture supports this view. Scripture is indeed clear that men and women are inherently equal in value as they image their Creator God, but it is also not shy about the fact that they are called to inherently different roles in the way they image Him. When the Holy Spirit caused you to be born again, your old self, the self that wanted to choose its own destiny, determine its own place in the world, and pick its own path died. You were made alive in Christ, born unto a cross-shaped, sacrificial life that acknowledges God as the authority over every aspect of your being and life on this earth. I say acknowledge, because He always has had that sovereign authority, you are merely now seeking to live in light of the authority that always belonged to Him rather than in rebellion against it. “You are not your own, for you have been bought at a price,” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a).

YOU ARE NOT THE AUTHORITY
Sisters, with that said, it is critical that we understand that we do not have a right to define ourselves in a biblical role that Scripture has not defined for us. It does not take a Masters in Biblical Languages to understand simple phrases like, “An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…” (1 Timothy 3:2a), “appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife…” (Titus 1:5b-6a), “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve,” (1 Timothy 2:12-13), and “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior…to teach what is good, and so train the young women…” (Titus 2:3-4). Nearly every article I came across in defense of women pastors basically attempted exegetical gymnastics asserting that there was some great mystery hidden in the Greek or using poor Bible translations that deceptively use gender-neutral language in place of explicitly male/female words. It goes against every progressive sensibility to say that women are not “permitted” to do certain things over their male counterparts, even if the language is explicitly rooted in a creational, pre-fall reality (Adam was created first, then Eve). When confronted with the total lack of Biblical examples of women elders or teachers beyond women-exclusive groups, those who defend women in the pastorate pulled a verse about a woman named Junia in Romans 16:7, referred to by Paul as his “kinsmen in the faith” (what?) or how maybe, possibly Priscilla could’ve been one (though it never says she was). These arguments, though fine examples of women using their gifts of teaching, hold about as much water as a holey bucket when it comes to defending women pastors, and expose the bottom line, once again: this stance is not about Scripture being unclear regarding how God wants His church to represent Him to the world. It is that in the midst of this culture that celebrates autonomy, parity, and egalitarianism, more and more people, even those who claim the name of Christ, are rejecting the picture that He is calling us to image through gender-based restrictions in our ministry to the church. God takes His glory very seriously, and as His Bride we should be passionately committed to representing Him the way He desires to be represented rather than creating false impressions of His nature in order to keep up with what the world believes is good or right.

IN CONCLUSION
When I sat down to write this article, I had mild trepidation as I wondered what difficult, hard-to-beat arguments I would encounter in my reading that would make explaining and defending a biblical view of church government and women’s roles difficult. To be honest, I was let down by the lack of persuasive, even remotely Scripture-honoring defenses out there and was reminded that like so many things, this view actually comes down not to semantics, but to whether we want to obey the Scripture on an issue or not. The Bible is clear, so we have to ask ourselves: Do we believe that God is the authority of our lives with the right to draw boundary lines around how we may glorify Him with the ways we participate in His church? Or do we believe its ok to start interpreting what God really means by cultural norms and their ideas about women’s place in this world? If you are someone who wrestles with the idea that women are not allowed to be pastors, my greatest encouragement to you is to go to the Word and simply read it for yourself, attempting to check your feelings at the door and consider, “Are you willing to adjust your life to whatever God reveals of Himself in the upcoming days?” (John Snyder, Behold Your God). No matter how uncomfortable the process may be, coming under the authority of our Father God is indeed for our good. Let us not view pastoral ministry as some kind of forbidden fruit or believe Satan’s lie that we are being kept from some delight. There is a whole garden of delights that are ours, and so many joys exclusive to biblical womanhood. So come, taste, and see that the Lord is good, and His purposes for us as women are good, too.

Passages for Further Study:
1 Timothy 2:9-15
1 Timothy 3:1-7
Titus 1:5-9

Some Articles and Sermons for Further Study
Short and Sweet:
https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA127/can-women-serve-as-pastors-and-elders-in-the-church
https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/should-women-become-pastors

If thinking about something you “can’t” do feels discouraging, check out this article by John Piper that lists out EIGHTY ways women get to participate in serving Christ in the Church:
https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-challenge-to-women

This talk by Andreas Kostenberger addresses common arguments surrounding 1 Timothy 2:9-15 from those who hold to an egalitarian view:
http://www.corporis.ca/video-archives/2017/andreas-j.-köstenberger-on-gods-design-for-men-and-women-in-the-church-session-3/

This is part 4 of a great series on Biblical Womanhood from 2 Timothy 2:9-15, with this part specifically addressing verses 12-15 that summarize why women are to not teach or exercise authority over men.
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/54-17/gods-high-calling-for-women-part-4

Some thoughts from The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
https://cbmw.org/topics/women-in-ministry/women-preachers-a-fresh-discussion/

Learning to Love the Hard-to-Love Person

The winter holiday season is just about over, and it is very likely that, in these past few months, you interacted with a fellow neighbor, member of your church, coworker, guest, or family relative that you consider…er…um…should we say, disagreeable.

We all have that first person who comes to mind when we think of someone who is complicated, difficult to be around, too critical, or just rubs us the wrong way. And maybe for you and your situation, there is a whole list of people who you think could be labeled as dampers for your holidays, or even your life.

In all reality, their very presence may well leave little room for you to enjoy your day. A challenging person can be difficult to love, and time around them can turn a simple and sweet moment into a tense or emotional event. We all like to be around people who make us feel good: those who are fun-spirited and light up the room with their sense of humor and joy, those who encourage us to look to Christ for hope and don’t judge our actions or words too quickly, and those who are slow to speak and patient to react in anxious situations. But in spite of the reality of difficult people, we are called by Christ to always humbly examine our own hearts, even as we respond to those trying relational moments.

And God is gracious to reveal our own sin when we are confronted with that of others. No person exhibits the fruit of the Spirit wholly and consistently in every situation because we are at constant war with our flesh. Often, in our sin, we choose to live our lives in the flesh and ignore the Helper that God has provided us through His Spirit to walk by faith in His ways (Galatians 2:20). This reality has caused me to evaluate my own fleshly temperaments, responses to stressful situations, and various attitudes I carry in life, according to the fruit we see that is of the Holy Spirit. It has been humbling to think that, despite these manifestations of my sin, there are still those that care deeply for me, guide me patiently, and are willing to point out my sin when I am too proud to acknowledge it. It is even more humbling to know that God, in his perfect holiness, is still so patient with His people – His loving-kindness and steadfast mercies we do not deserve. And He invites us to draw near, repent of our sins, and be renewed in Christ so that we no longer act according to our flesh (Galatians 5:16).

With this mindset, how should we respond to those who we feel are challenging to love? Is it really right to push away people who we might consider to be too difficult, troublesome, or annoying? Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Am I consistently praying for this person and the things about them that are difficult for me?
  • If they are are not a Christian, have I considered their need for salvation? Who in their life is able and willing to share the gospel with them and model the works of God’s grace to them?
  • If they are a Christian, have I prayed for the Lord to sanctify them in their words and actions through His sanctifying grace, and asked Him for opportunities to graciously and lovingly express my concerns?

A prayer you might pray to grow in your love for someone is: Lord, please help me to examine my own heart before your truth. Help me to love this person that is made in your image, not because I can find a reason to love them, but because you already do love them, and desire for them to know more of you. If it is your will, please teach them to trust in Christ alone, to walk in your ways, and to honor you in all things.

Let’s kneel before the Lord and ask for help to do the very thing that seems impossible at times for us to do: to love people we feel are unlovable. After all, our great God is the perfect expert on this, for He loved us though we were once His enemies. He gave His Son over to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God, His children, and His beloved. Let us trust in Him for this, since He can certainly teach us, sanctify us, and move us to love as He does.


1 John 4:7-12

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

🎶 Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus 🎶

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

One of the most distinct aspects of the Christmas holiday is that wherever you go, you will hear familiar jingles and carols playing. Though some are less enthused with the overflow of Christmas music that seems to take over our malls, car radios, and restaurants starting essentially November 1, I am always so excited to hear a song that reminds me about Christmas, and even happier if it reminds me of the truth to reflect on this holiday.

I especially love Christmas hymns because I have begun to notice the rich poetic praise found in them. I did not grow up in church, but I do remember singing hymns that we all know so well, such as, “Joy to the World,” and, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” So, it’s now funny to me to look back and wonder, how in the world did I not learn something about Christ from these hymns? How did the true story of Christmas, of the Savior of the world coming to this earth in the form of a baby, pass me by for so many years?

I think one of the reasons was just that, that the story and songs of Christmas were well-known recounts of a baby, and I had never considered them deeply. I never understood the rich allusions to God’s glory; the peace that Christ brings through reconciling us with God through His life, death, resurrection, and reign; nor the joy that we are to find in Christ. But by God’s grace, now as a believer and follower of Jesus, I find myself hearing and learning so much truth in the Advent hymns, truth that is found in scripture, and that reminds me of who God is, what He has done, and what the purpose of this life should be!

My favorite Christmas hymn for 2018 has been “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.” It’s not as well known, but it was written by Charles Wesley who also authored “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Wesley was an English minister in the 1700s, and committed much of his life to proclaiming the truth of Christ through poetic praise, or hymns. He wrote approximately 6,500 hymns in his lifetime, and published “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” in “Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord.” Today, many evangelical churches throughout the world sing or have sung one or more of Wesley’s hymns, and much of his work has shaped the theology of the modern church.

In the first verse, we sing of anticipating the birth of our Savior, and profess that He was born to set His people free. Consider what the Lord has set His people free from; and the next line tells us: from our fears and sins. Christ came to set us free from the slavery we had to sin (John 8:34-36), and from the fear of being condemned for our sins. We are now free because of the gift of God in Christ, and by trusting in Christ, God has removed condemnation from us (Romans 8:1-2). This reminds me of the deep, powerful love of God, that He would love us so much to send His Son to die for us. And in the last two lines in the first verse share of the truth that Christ is the satisfying Savior to all throughout the earth; moreover, that His salvation is the joy that we celebrate this Christmas season!

In the final verse, I love to reflect on the last two lines, “By thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.” Jesus’ sufficient merit tells of His perfect life here on earth – from His birth, He lived righteously, honored God, and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. He earned what none of us never could – a righteous standing before God because He is righteous in deed, spirit, and mind (Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21). When He died, He suffered for our sins. When He rose from the dead, He defeated the dreaded consequence of sin – death. And we see the love of God in that when we confess our need for Him and His salvation, He graciously and joyfully imparts His righteousness to us and we are forgiven. So, now, by the grace and power of Jesus, we will be sustained to the end and raised to His glorious throne. One day soon, come, thou long-expected Jesus.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,Born a child and yet a King,

Born to reign in us forever,

Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit

Rule in all our hearts alone;

By Thine all sufficient merit,

Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

By Thine all sufficient merit,Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Adopted as Sons: Thinking of the Fatherless on Father’s Day

Growing up, Father’s day wasn’t really a time of celebration for me. My parents’ marriage fell apart as my mom was pregnant with me, they divorced, and my mom raised my sisters and me on her own. As the years passed, my routine for the holiday was to simply consider it a second Mother’s day and to make my mom another card or write her a note. I had always considered myself to be a girl without a father, as my dad had moved on, and my mom never remarried.

My father passed away when I was sixteen, and the probability of one day reconciling our relationship fell from slim to zero. It was difficult, but in an existential way; my life looked every bit the same practically, but the weight of being without a father felt heavier. I carried the embittering burden of believing that he had never cared for me to be his daughter, and now there was no way I could refute it.

I moved along in life, letting each year that passed serve as a compacted wall covering the hurt and even the shame of fatherlessness. It was not until God revealed the truth of the gospel to me, though, that I even began to consider everything in my life in light of God’s sovereignty. I began to ask, could it be that God would allow for a father to not want his children or family? What did salvation have to do with a human’s love for another, and especially a father’s love for his daughter?

I don’t have the perfect answer to all my questions yet, but in my prayers, I have asked God by faith to give me an understanding of how great His love and care are for the fatherless. Psalm 68:5 calls God, “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.” Our Father in heaven looks upon those in need with special care, and calls for His church to do the same (James 1:27). But we also see the Father heart of God in His adoption of all who believe in Jesus Christ; whether or not you have a good relationship with your earthly father, there are truths about your relationship to your Heavenly Father. Paul explains to the church of Galatia that Jesus came to redeem us, who were under the law, and Galatians 4:1-7 reads,

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Paul shows us that our adoption is both legal and costly, but secure. Our adoption as children means that we have the standing of sons of God, and now fully belong to God’s family. Furthermore, the Christian’s identity as a child of God is one that exists for God’s glory, was predestined by God, and is sealed by the Holy Spirit.

God calls you His child for His glory

I am thankful for God’s great love for us, and for the gift of being able to cry out to Him, “Abba, Father.” It is a blessing to depend on our faithful God, who is the Creator and the Holy One; however, we must not take this idea lightly and forget that it is for God’s glory, and not simply our own, that He bestowed such an inheritance on us. In Romans 8:16-17, Paul explains that “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” The idea that God is glorified in calling those who have rebelled against Him His children awes me. In considering this truth, we see more clearly His great kindness and vast love; however, we cannot comprehend these realities apart from His mercy and justice. The price for our adoption was not cheap because our God is a holy God who cannot look upon sin, and therefore, cannot casually accept us as we are. Though we like to consider ourselves worthy of being loved and made His children, we only bring forth our own sin and rebellion to God and are deserving of His wrath. Jesus Christ is the Messiah who died in our place and rose to life again, paying the price for our sins, clearing our guilty stains, and justifying us through His righteousness so that we might stand worthy before the Father. But when we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and we repent of our sin, we come to God not because of ourselves, but because of His great kindness. We see that we claim no merit to His love, and yet He willingly gives it to us. God not only forgives us through Christ, which is already so much more than we deserve, but He also adopts us as His own, provides for us, and works in us so that we would walk as His children.

God chose those who are His from the beginning of time

God’s care for those He calls His children was premeditated. Just as a loving father anticipates the arrival of his children from the moment of conception and after 9 months in the womb, Scripture teaches us that God chose us long before we came into existence. Ephesians 1 reads, “In love [God] predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” This promise makes known to us the certainty of God’s salvation and adoption. At no time will we be sent back from God, and we can never be separated from His love (Romans 8:39). Our election is based on Him and His faithfulness to His word, and not our own (2 Timothy 2:13). In light of the sin-stained fickleness of human love, we may look upon God erroneously, fearful that His love might mirror that of our own father’s, or even our own. But I challenge you to believe in God’s word and pray to Him by faith, that you would have the assurance of your salvation and adoption.

The Holy Spirit seals our adoption as Sons

So the Father chooses us according to His perfect will, the Son sacrificed Himself for and shares His inheritance with us, and the Spirit seals our adoption by leading us and bearing witness that we are God’s children (Romans 8:14-16). What a beautiful act of love in which we see the work of the triune God that sustains us in every part of God’s plan. And we cry out “Abba, Father,” just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane because the Holy Spirit moves us to depend fully on our Heavenly Father, just as Christ did. Whereas before professing and following Christ you would look to yourself or other idols for wisdom, power, and joy, you are now led to see how much more you need the Lord for what once seemed to be simple choices and pursuits. The Spirit compels the believer to act, worship, pray, and even cry out to the One in whom He loves and trusts for all things. You may know that God is your Father and that you are His adopted child, but do you experience in your heart the dependence, comfort, peace, trust, and expectancy that your Father will act according to His will and for your good? Do you turn to Him as you would have your own parents when you were a child? Let us look to God as our provider and leader, by the power of the Holy Spirit; He is the one who knows what is best for us, what we need, and what will bring glory to His name.

Even though for years I did not know how to celebrate Father’s day, I now rejoice with others on this special day. It is a blessing to look around and see the many men who strive to submit themselves to the Lord and walk in His ways. Their desire is God, to know Him, love Him, and glorify Him in every area of their lives, which can include fatherhood. I am thankful for their example and blessing to those like me, but because they are still subject to their sinful flesh, they may, and probably do fall short of what is required of them. So on Father’s day, I also rejoice in the Lord, who redeems the lives of those who come to Him in repentance and truth. And I celebrate God’s perfect love for the all who believe, including the fatherless, which is a secure love that cannot disappoint nor fail.